Summer at Center for Inquiry–International
by Ben Hyink
The following article is from the Secular
Humanist Bulletin, Volume 19, Number 3.
This summer I had the good fortune of attending both the
Center for Inquiry’s 2003 Institute Summer Session and the Debater’s Toolbox
through a CFI internship. The Summer Session brought together scholars of all
ages and backgrounds for an intensive six-credit-hour, two-week session
in which we learned about ethical views and belief development, exchanged
perspectives with one another and prestigious professors in the fields of
philosophy and psychology, traveled to local sites of interest, and developed
great friendships along the way. I found especially interesting Peter
Railton’s consequentialism of “objectified well-being” as advocated by
Austin Dacey and Robert Solomon (University of Texas) and his nuanced
interpretation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s virtue ethics. Professor Barry
Beyerstein, from Simon Frasier University, taught a class that was thoroughly
informative and Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire in the
United Kingdom gave presentations
that were both informative and wildly entertaining.
The Debater’s Toolbox event, held from Thursday, July 31
to Sunday, August 3, was packed
with strategies and models that participants could use in their own formal and
informal debates. The main presenters offered solid strategies to winning
debates that varied in emphasis as to which components of a victory were of
greatest importance (winning the technical arguments, relating to the audience,
remaining civil, etc.). We secular humanists and skeptics have minds of our
The afternoon sessions were fascinating; tapes of this
event are well worth purchasing. At the request of Paul Kurtz, actress and
comedian Julia Sweeney indulged a dinner audience in an impromptu performance of
her monologue “My Beautiful Loss-of-Faith Story”—a hilarious and uplifting
work that should not be missed. The Saturday night main event featured a debate
between Eddie Tabash and Michael Vander Meer focusing on the existence of God.
In my opinion, Vander Meer was trounced. Tabash later made the point
that, although bruises may be expected from challengers the caliber of William
L. Craig, one must always use one’s array of arguments to the fullest
advantage in any debate.
CFI develops and utilizes the strongest abilities of each
intern: together, we have written press releases, analyzed paranormal evidence
and performed experiments for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, conducted
interviews on behalf of Free Inquiry, in addition to providing support at
various events, administering seemingly countless mailings, maintaining various
databases (data entry), and many other tasks. I am profoundly grateful for the
opportunity to work with and learn from CFI’s community of scholars and
activists, especially those at the Council for Secular Humanism. I highly
recommend the CFI summer internship program to all students in the secular
humanist and skeptic communities.
Ben Hyink is a student and active in the Third Culture
Society at Northwestern University.
Pg 1 photo caption
Session 1 of the Debaters’ Tool Box was on the
“Philosophical Foundations of the Debate on Theism.” The panel included
(from left to right): Keith Parsons (at podium); Charles Echelbarger (seated);
Eddie Tabash (with microphone); Graham Oppy; and Evan Fales (partially hidden).
Page 2 photo (top) caption
Page 2 photo (bottom) caption
Session 1 of the Debaters’ Tool
Box was on the “Philosophical Foundations of the Debate on Theism.”
The panel included (from left to right): Keith Parsons (at podium);
Charles Echelbarger (seated); Eddie Tabash (with microphone); Graham
Oppy; and Evan Fales (partially hidden).
Jeff Lowder (left) asumes the
Christian viewpoint against Stuart Jordan (seated, right) in a mock
debate in the CFI library during Debaters’ Toolbox.
Students, faculty and staff of
CFI’s Summer Session 2003. CFI’s college-credit courses included
“Reason and Ethics” and “Psychology of Belief.”
Humanism Online Library